After taking a hiatus last year the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival came back with a vengeance in 2013. Five days of movies, panels, premieres, filmmaker Q&As, and parties took over parts of Hollywood last week. The festival, co-founded by Marlene Dermer and Edward James Olmos, showcased 62 U.S. Latino and Latin American films: 28 features, 11 documentaries, and 23 shorts.
In case you missed it, here’s a roundup of LALIFF’s 16th edition…
Christine Davila, of the Chicana from Chicago film blog, breaks down the happenings of opening night: a screening of the documentary Pablo, a Lifetime Achievement award for Pablo Ferro (the subject of the documentary), and the after-party at the Wax Museum:
Edward James Olmos presented the Gabi Lifetime Achievement award to Pablo Ferro, a bohemian whose signature skinny long letters and influential film title sequences include such films like Dr. Strangelove, Bullet, Russians Are Coming, BeetleJuice, Men In Black, among countless others.
Wearing his trademark red scarf, Pablo accepted his award without so many words but no matter, as the audience generously paid enthusiastic homage to one or our own being rightly commemorated.
The documentary, Pablo, is an animated, whimsical treatment of the life and times of this consummate artist and original hipster. Folks like Angelica Huston, Andy Garcia, and Leonard Maltin praise his genius; narration by The Dude, Jeff Bridges, gives it an added air of deadpan wit and strikes the tone of the bohemian Cuban-born artist.
At the party across the street at the Wax Museum where the uncanny real life sized figures freak you out every time you feel you should turn around to introduce yourself (guests remarked where are my brown wax at!) I got a chance to see many of the US Latino filmmakers with films in the festival. From Jesse Salmeron and Jeremy Ray Valdez of Dreamer to Richard Montoya of Water & Power.
Jesse Garcia, an actor who starred in the award-winning indie Quinceañera as a gay cholo and whose had numerous roles on TV shows like Law and Order, CSI Miami, and The Shield attended this year’s LALIFF as a filmmaker not just an actor. He wrote, starred, directed, and produced the short film The Price We Pay about a young soldier who comes home from war to find his previous life turned upside down. He shared his experiences at the festival and the audience’s reaction to his short:
It was an honor to screen The Price We Pay at LALIFF this year. I’ve been a part of the festival many times as an actor in films and once as a producer, but this was my first time as a writer/director.
My film was well received by the audience. I got great reactions where I was hoping to get them. Having shot it predominantly in a single take with no dialogue worked quite well. It was great to see it on the big screen with an audience. I had a few people come to me afterward, telling me that they were veterans or had family members that were, and how PTSD affected them and their families. While I hope the film is entertaining, I hope it can also be a catalyst for conversation about vets returning home injured, with PTSD and/or veteran suicide. These issues need to be talked about. There is help available.
The parties were great, of course. It’s always like a reunion of Latino talent and friends at this festival. I always walk away feeling inspired. I saw some great films and docs throughout the festival. The closing night film, Nosotros Los Nobles was fantastic. Great story and super funny.
Nicole Gomez Fisher, writer and director of the Jewish-Latino comedy Sleeping With the Fishes, starring Gina Rodriguez (Filly Brown) and Ana Ortiz of Ugly Betty fame recounts what it was like to share her first film with a LALIFF audience, other movies she enjoyed, and the great time she had at closing night:
Having the opportunity to show my film Sleeping With the Fishes at LALIFF was not only an honor, but a dream come true! The audience reaction was amazing! I had a lot of women approach me afterwards to tell me how much they could relate to the mother/daughter dynamic and how the mixture of humor and drama touched them to the core.
My favorite movie…well to be honest…there were a few. I loved Nosotros Los Nobles! What a funny and touching film! I was also incredibly moved by several shorts: The Shooting Star Salesman by Kico Verlade, Interstate, Bordando La Frontera and El Doctor. All of which I found incredible. The acting and direction on all of these shorts was top notch! I was truly impressed.
My favorite party moment was when Marlene (the director of the festival) approached me and hugged me at the closing night event and told me that she was proud of me and that she truly believed in my film.
Maria Augi Carter is the director of Rebel a documentary about the incredible real-life story of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, a Cuban immigrant who secretly served as a soldier in the Confederate army during the American Civil War. Maria tells her favorite moment from the parties and the special guests that sat in audience during the screening of her film:
I have to say I loved being at LALIFF – there was a lovely glamour to the festival, and Marlene and her team clearly worked so hard for us – I appreciated every minute! It was such an honor to be among such talented Latino and Latin American voices. And a great way to start off the festival was walking into the LALIFF opening gala, the first person I met was the Consul of Ecuador, where I was born.
My movie, Rebel, is a documentary hybrid with dramatic period and war scenes that seemed so fitting in a classic old-time Hollywood theater, but imagine my anxiety when I spotted longtime Latino Hollywood royalty such as Jimmy Smits and Wanda De Jesus, among a number of other Hollywood stars in my audience! But to have movie stars tell you you should be directing dramatic features, to have Edward James Olmos rave about Rebel and just as importantly, to have a Latina woman in the military service drive hours to watch this premiere and share how empowering Rebel was for her made all twelve years of my struggle to tell this story on film worth it.
The closing night film didn’t disappoint either. Most of the filmmakers mentioned Nosotros Los Nobles as their festival favorite. Sofia Vergara showed up on the red carpet but didn’t even stay to watch the movie! She’s busy I guess. The night also served as a chance to celebrate the filmmakers and hand out awards.
And the Winners Are… Best Feature Film: Esther en Alguna Parte
Director: Gerardo Chijon
Best Documentary: Justice for My Sister
Director: Kimberly Bautista
Country: United States/Guatemala
Best Opera Prima: Princesas Rojas
Director: Laura Astorga
Country: Costa Rica
Best Short Film: El Cocodrilo
Director: Steve Acevedo
Audience Choice Award: Ponchao
Director: Josh Crook
Country: Dominican Republic
Best Director: Miriam Kruishoop for Greencard Warrior